EN 1001 Lecture Notes - Mary Seton, Oxbridge, Literal And Figurative Language

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26 Jan 2013
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September 25
yorku.ca/laps/writ/centre/workshops
Academic Integrity Quiz
1. Prose Nonfiction --> fiction
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
Why is this text on the course: as transition between prose nonfiction and prose fiction;
genre issues; gender issues
Room of One's Own is nonfiction; it was originally given as a lecture
2. Critical Reading Strategies
Pat attention to your own responses: are you bored? Why? Is it the style, ideas, subject?
What kind of texture is this: it's a hybrid of different genres, ex. monologue
Think about style and technique and why they're used
Woolf's book refuses to be slotted easily into any one category
Uses lots of fictional devices
Published 5 major novels before giving her lecture, A Room of One's Own
She was recognized as the leading female writer of the time
"Fernham": Girton College (1869) - 1st residential institution of higher learning for women in the
U.K.
Style & Technique
Stream-of-consciousness technique: style that imitates flow of thoughts/feeling in the same way
we experience them
Images & symbols - Imagery: figurative language, or language that evokes sense impression;
Symbol: any concrete thing or action that implies a meaning beyond its literal sense <water
comes up a lot; p. 6 - "one could sit...weighing of it out"; image of narrator's consciousness>
Blurring fact and fiction, "truth" and "lies"
Names
Narrator/persona/tone of voice
You can't divorce fiction from life: Woolf says if you're going to talk about "women and fiction"
in a useful way, you need to look at the conditions women have to function under
Images & symbols: "Oxbridge" = Oxford & Cambridge
p. 13 - the lunch at the male college
Describes in detail the men's luncheon she was at; describes briefly the women's dinner - she
shows what it was like for each of the sexes
p. 5 - "fiction here is likely to contain more truth...preceded my coming here"; she's attacking
the dualistic (typical western thought) way of thinking; she subverts the categories; not
everything people accept as truth is true; fiction can contain/examine truths not found
elsewhere
Names - deliberately chosen & chosen to convey meaning; the names are taken from an old folk
song <by using a folk song from a long time ago, she suggests there is a commonality, that
women suffer a lot of the same things through the ages>; she implies that women have an
unrecorded history; is there such thing as a common history that all women have experienced -
contemporary feminists have argued that lumping all women together ignores the differences
between women; can she really speak for the maids, or the women of colour?; become alert to
blind spots - but do these undermine her validity?
Narrator/persona/tone of voice: "call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton..." - she doesn't want people
to identify the narrator as herself, she's putting distance between herself and the character,
even though the character uses "I"; persona = Latin word for "mask"
p. 4 - "a lecturer's job...all I can do is give you a point": lots of qualifiers, "I could never do what a
real lecturer does" - seems insecure, mimics the way that women were expected to be; this is
also a way of deflecting criticism; being modest; disguising the radical nature of the critique
she's giving; linguistic technique women have used - being assertive without being assertive
Tongue-in-cheek: p. 26, "burst out in scorn...flaunting in the sun"; sounds scornful, but it's irony
- the women were at home giving birth to 13 children and taking care of everyone
Themes: what's being said about a topic/subject; as unifying concepts of a story (when reading
fiction) that accounts for all the major details